From the most famous choreographers to the newest of dance newbies, we're all going through the same pandemic-related struggles right now. So, how are the pros coping with it all? To find out, we've started a new interview series, #SocialDisDancing. Over the next few weeks, we'll be catching up with some of your favorite dancers to see how they're step-ball-changing their way through this unprecedented moment in dance history. To kick things off, we chatted with dancer, choreographer, and February 2019 cover star, Lucy Vallely. (Be sure to check out Lucy's takeover of our Instagram for an inside peek at her day in the #SocialDisDancing life.)
Where are you spending this period of social distancing?
I'm at my home in Long Beach, CA, with my parents and our two dogs.
What were you up to right before social distancing was advised?
Before all this, I was touring every weekend with Nuvo, assisting professionally for them. I was out of town 4-7 days a week, going straight to other studios to teach and choreograph between convention weekends. The day that everything started to shut down, I was actually supposed to be going on a ten-day trip, first to Nuvo in Houston, then to New York for a job, and then back to Nuvo in Chicago. I ended up arriving at the airport too late for my flight, and was so upset! But the universe had me miss that flight for a reason. I would've had to turn right back around—everything got canceled. I ended up saving a lot of time by missing that plane.
What do your days look like right now?
At first, I really felt like I had to set up a super-structured routine. But now, I'm trying to find a more intuitive structure, and listening to what feels right. I try to implement what I call "tiny habits" throughout my day. First thing every morning, I take a few minutes to journal. I write three things I'm grateful for, three things I'd like to do in the day, and a daily affirmation. Then I make sure to make my bed, and have my cereal and coffee.
After that, I've been spending a few hours a day reading a book called Living with Joy by Sanaya Roman. I have so much time now to study books, tune into my own thoughts, and concentrate on implementing healthy ideas. I want to come out of this a better human being.
I'm trying to flex as many creative muscles as I possibly can. I've taken up painting, and I've also been revamping my room, so every time I'm there I feel like it's my sanctuary and creative cave.
I make sure I get outside every day. I'll go on runs and listen to music and podcasts, or walk the dogs with my parents. I try to eat healthy, nourishing foods. When you're traveling, you spend so much money eating to-go foods out of plastic containers. Now, my parents and I put on a record every night and have a nice meal. Then afterwards we'll take our dogs on a walk, and finish the night watching an episode of "Lost."
How has your dancing been impacted by social distancing?
In the dance world, someone is always asking what you're doing next, and sometimes you just want to say "I don't know." There's usually so much guilt around taking a break. So in a way it's liberating to be able to dance when I want to, rather than when I feel like I should. Right now is a beautiful time for any kind of artist to see where their true artistic self lies. I'll have random dance parties in my room, by myself, with no cameras and no posting on Instagram. It's a great time to experiment and play, because no one's watching you.
Have you been taking any virtual classes?
Yes, Spencer Theberge's ballet class on Instagram Live every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I've been trying to prioritize ballet because if I keep up my ballet technique, then my artistry can always flourish on top of that. I also took Martha Nichols's Live class, which was so fun.
You're also teaching classes on Instagram Live. What has that been like?
The first class I taught on Instagram Live was kind of overwhelming—I was figuring it all out. The first ten minutes I had the camera flipped so the footage was reversed, which was confusing. Then, there's the question of whether to leave the comment option on or turn it off, and then you have to worry about the camera angle…but I got better each time.
The live class I taught with CLI Studios was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had, and I've never felt more connected with the dance world. There were over seven thousand people taking my class! It's surreal that this period of isolation has ended up connecting me to so many different people.
How do you think the dance world will look once this is over?
I see excitement and enthusiasm coming back. A lot of the time, we take being able to create art and share space with other people for granted, but this has helped us realize how valuable those things are. There will be a lot of creative juices flowing when we make contact with each other again. After going through something so intense, we're also going to have so many emotions to express, good and bad.
It'll be interesting to see how people behave in convention settings, or any kind of traditional dance setting. Will we be hesitant to touch each other after staying apart for so long, or will it be the opposite–hugging and being extra close to each other, since that was taken away from us? It's beautiful when you're in a room with lots of people, feeling that energy vibrating and bouncing around. It'll be a shock to our systems when that comes back, and we're going to feel so alive and grateful for it.
Who's the first person you want to see after social distancing?
My best friend, Chloe. We've been FaceTiming, but it's not the same as doing nothing together. There's a weird pressure when you're talking on the phone or FaceTiming, you always have to be filling up the space with conversation. But sometimes, it's nice to just be in someone's presence without saying anything.
First dance class you want to take?
That would be Jessie Riley's class at West Side Dance Project, where I spent the past three years training.
First place you want to go?
Nuvo. I miss it, and I want to be back touring as soon as I can.
Any last words of advice for your fellow dancers?
To be a dancer you have to be an artist, and to be an artist you have to be a human being. This is our time to be human beings, so let's try to do that, without feeling guilty.